Nurture Yourself – with Love and Compassion

This speaks beautifully to my life as the youngest child born to a single mom herself struggling to survive. Compassion for others has become the cornerstone of my own life, founded upon having compassion for myself first…
………hugmamma.

Inside the Mind of Isadora


The greatest degree of inner tranquility comes from the development of love and compassion. The more we care for the happiness of others, the greater is our sense of well-being.
Tenzin Gyatso-the 3rd Dalai Lama

ANGEL - Purple FlowersWhat is compassion?

It’s a feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering. info marion dictionary

From birth, we are part of a community called family. The bond is our connection to security and survival. There are situations where our biological family does not serve that well. We become the sufferers due to horrific acts such as child abuse and abandonment. The lack of love and compassion leaves us lost. It heightens stress because we feel loneliness and isolation. Our ability to be compassionate to others fails as we have no guideline. Sometimes, the compassion comes from somewhere else such…

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please…take care…

Saturday Morning: Cartoons' Greatest Hits

Saturday Morning: Cartoons’ Greatest Hits (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s Saturday morning!

What got me out of bed so bright and early?

Another post…what else!

Before I go there however, I’d like to explain why my flaws are often the jumping off point for my writing.

It’s because I’d really like to help you learn from my mistakes or inaction…if possible.

So back to the story at hand.

My previous piece…“Wellness”…got me thinking about my mom.

Raising a large family as a widow meant we lived from paycheck to paycheck. As a result my mom’s needs came last.

I never remember her visiting the doctor. She could barely afford to take us. We were lucky to have a kind physician minister to our health problems. Dr. Fleming never pressed my mom for payment, allowing her to pay what she could…when she could.

My mom suffered greatly from arthritis, especially in her knees.

Her sorrowful groans would awaken me in the early morning hours. The floor boards creaked as she paced back and forth. Until the pain subsided, she could not sleep.

I’d lay quietly, praying for God’s help, tears streaming down my cheeks.

Not even her arthritis could keep my mom from going to work, an hour’s drive from home.

She was the laundress for a Catholic orphanage…The Children’s Home. She often helped in the kitchen, and sometimes chaperoned the older kids, driving them to school functions on the weekends.

It’s difficult to understand how my mom dealt with her health issues, including high blood pressure and diabetes, without the help of doctors. As sole breadwinner, she had no time for self-pity. My mom took care of herself, and us, as best she could.

Comparing our lives would be like comparing apples and oranges.

I’m extremely fortunate to have my husband of 42 years by my side. His generosity has been a blessing for my daughter and me. We are truly grateful for his loving care and support.

Whenever I think of my mom it is with deep regret that she could not have enjoyed a better life. One that included a lifelong companion.

Someone of her own to love…and love her.

Someone who would have helped shoulder the burdens…and kiss away her tears.

Someone with whom she might have shared secrets…and belly laughs.

My mom might have been spared much of the physical and mental anguish she suffered throughout her life…had she someone to help pay for her medical care.

Alzheimer’s stole whatever remained of my mom’s indomitable spirit…when she died at 86.IMG_4143

It’s never too late…

…to look to your own well-being…and that of a loved one…whatever their age…

………hugmamma.

swedish hospital…a 5-star resort?

Hubby and I had a date Saturday…touring the brand, spanking new Swedish Hospital in the Issaquah Highlands. We thought we’d make a quick stop, check it out, and be on our way to our real destination…Molbak’s Nursery, gift shop and cafe in Woodinville. Well, we never made it to see the flowers, plants and knick-knacks, or lunch among the lush foliage. Instead we wandered around the new hospital with thousands of other curious tourists to what seemed like a resort, not a place where the sick and maimed go to be cured and put back together again. I’m sure I wandered around, my mouth agape the whole time. We were all like children in a new candy shop, sampling everything with our eyes. I wasn’t the only one who was bug-eyed either.

Walking through glass doors which parted without hesitation, I immediately saw a Starbuck’s to my right…already with a line of people. No small wonder there. Tucked in the corner between the cafe and the front door was the restaurant. Visiting it later, I saw that it was on the caliber of any good dining destination in the community at large. Viewing the grandeur of the Pacific Northwest through the surrounding glass walls would also be a treat…a very calming one for sure.

Wandering further inside through what felt like a grand foyer, a reception desk sat to the left, and next to it a staircase leading to the second floor. Straight ahead was the bank of elevators, and to the right, past Starbuck’s was a gift shop. Rather, I should say, a mall of shops. After touring the floors above, I spent some time wandering in and out of the several stores. This is probably when I most felt like I was not in a hospital.

What appeared to be the main gift shop was lit up with a beautifully handrafted chandelier made by a local artist. Directly beneath was a table also crafted by another homegrown talent. In fact, most of the items in the shop were made here in the Pacific Northwest according to the shop’s lovely manager. She spent a few moments of her time talking with me, smiling all the while. A definite asset to what could be an intimidating environment for some. After all, this was still a hospital.

Walking through an oversized open doorway into the next shop, I delighted in seeing all manner of gifts for newborns and toddlers. Some items I’d never seen elsewhere. Across the way was another, very large, retailer selling exercise clothes, lingerie, and if I’m not mistaken, some maternity items for expectant mothers. One fun gift for you or someone else was a “snap” watch for around $16. The salesclerk kindly showed me how it operated. She stretched out the watchband, snapped it across her wrist, and “voile!” the watchband wrapped itself securely in place. What don’t people invent these days?!?

Down the hallway, next door to the shop with baby gifts, was a small studio for yoga classes. The nice volunteer offered information on how I could sign up for classes. Of course, it involved the internet. What doesn’t these days? Evidently I can check out the schedule for times and styles of yoga on the Swedish Hospital website. I might have to do that. I’ve always wanted to take a yoga class on a regular basis. Good for the body…and mind.

There were doctors, nurses, and technicians milling about to answer any questions. It was amazing to see so many of the staff smiling and relaxed. I’ve usually only seen them hurrying off to tend to patients. And I mean hurrying! Hopefully they’ll continue to smile once they get back to business as usual. I like smiling medical staff. They calm my nerves. Wouldn’t they make you feel more comfortable? They would me.

In October I’ll be having a colonoscopy and endoscopy done by Dr. David Patterson, Medical Director of Gastroenterology at Swedish. I met up with him again at the open house, after having talked with him a month or so ago at our initial consultation. Originally from New Zealand, he retains very little of his accent. Having lived here in the States for 35 years, I can understand why. Dr. Patterson’s ready smile and easy “bedside” manner goes far in steadying my nerves for the impending procedures. Knowing he sees many people in the course of his practice, and having met me only once, I was amazed that he could recall who I was as throngs of people were milling all around us. The key to unlocking his memory about me was that my daughter was a ballerina. We’d discussed it at our first meeting when he asked if I had children. Of course, ask a mom about her offspring…and you’ve got a friend for life. Well, let’s see what I think after the doc goes to work on me in the Fall. I’ll let you know then…

Meanwhile I’ve only good things to say about the new Swedish Hospital and their staff. They’ve served me well for more than a decade, the doctors and nurses, that is. Oh, and the ER team at the old facility. Between my husband and me, we’ve seen them a few times over the years, for various and sundry minor crises, which seemed somewhat major at the time…episodes of asthma, pains mimicking a heart attack. You know, the usual.

The new Emergency Room check-in looked like that in any 5-star hotel. But that’s as far as we went. I’m hoping we won’t have to see the rest of the ER anytime soon. Unfortunately we didn’t do any of the tours offered. The one to see the surgical facility had a line of people the length of the hallway. Since hubby and I were on a “date,” and we’d already spent a couple of hours sightseeing, we decided we’d seen enough to convince us that the hospital was pretty much just what the hype was all about.

it’s what the doctor ordered…and it’s just fine by me…hugmamma.

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four-legged diabetes…yikes!!!

Bad news from the vet yesterday. Juneau, one of our maine-coone-mixed breeds is overweight. At 15 pounds, he’s ripe for developing diabetes it seems. Not that I was surprised since it’s obvious he’s bigger and bulkier than our other cats, Sitka, his litter-mate, and Sunkist. Gosh, even our dog Mocha’s slimmer. So as they say, “today’s a new day.”

Growing up in a home where my mom struggled to feed our family, pets were obviously “low man on the totem pole.” They got leftovers, and probably not a whole lot of them either. And while they had a roof over their heads like we did, they were free to roam the neighborhood, except for the dogs. They were tethered to the outdoor stair railing.

We usually kept only one cat and/or one dog at a time. They were usually strays, or rescues from the animal shelter. When one cat we’d had the longest gave birth to a litter, we kept two of her kittens, especially after their mom, Toby, died. My friend and I found her one day lying in a neighbor’s backyard. She looked malnourished. Of course I felt badly, but my mom couldn’t concern herself with making sure the pets had enough to eat. She could barely keep food on the table for us the entire month. We knew her paycheck had run its course when there were only a few cans of tuna and sardines in the cupboard, along with what remained of the 25-pound bag of rice.

Trey food

Image via Wikipedia

When I married and began adopting cats, I made certain they had lots to eat. I think I fed them a reasonable amount. I didn’t just let them have a go at the cupboards. But until now I’d never heard of anyone feeding each cat separately, in different rooms. That boggles my mind! Not that it doesn’t make sense, considering I now have to do that for Juneau. I only wish I’d have known earlier.

When the vet had done their physicals before, he would ask about the cats eating and potty habits. I couldn’t give him definitive answers, because they ate and went about their “business” without my overseeing them. He never insisted I change this routine, so I didn’t. I think he felt it would be overwhelming with 3 cats. In fact at one time there were 4 cats. One died of cancer a few years ago.

In speaking of my dilemma with the receptionist yesterday, Sandy informed me that she feeds her 3 cats in separate rooms. That way she can keep an eye on one in particular who is a slower eater. She knows the cat’s had enough when it curls up for a nap in the closet. At that point her food bowl is put away until the next feeding. The door to that room is kept closed until meal-time is over. The rooms in which the other cats are fed are not closed because they eat their food in one sitting.

Sandy proceeded to describe her feeding ritual in great detail, down to how many pieces of a certain kibble are given at what meal, and for what snack. As she spoke, waves of fear and nausea overwhelmed me. I felt Juneau was doomed to dying of diabetes if I didn’t get this feeding thing down pat. But after speaking with my husband, we are taking steps toward managing our pets’ weights.

Sitka, who needs to gain weight, and Sunkist who is elderly and needs to maintain her current weight are being fed together as usual. We’re bringing Juneau upstairs in the morning and apportioning him his own special weight loss food, gradually so as not to upset his digestive system. We’re still mixing it in with the “old” food to wean him from it. Juneau will need a little time getting comfortable with the new arrangement. I’m not sure what the final routine will encompass, but we’re taking it one day at a time, now that we know what needs to be done.

The inconvenience is much more attractive than the alternative. Just as I don’t want to encounter the devastating effects of diabetes in my human loved ones, I don’t want our pets succumbing to the disease as well. It would be physically painful for Juneau, emotionally draining for me, not to mention the expense of insulin shots, medication, and constant trips to the vet.

Pets, like children, don’t choose their lot in life. They have no say in when and where they’re born, nor the names they’re given, nor the manner in which their lives unfold. They’re pretty malleable in the beginning. Given a home, nourishment and lots of love and affection, pets and children will flourish. So Juneau is in good hands.

especially now that we’re more attuned to his specific needs…hugmamma.

mandatory? blogging?

I can’t help but think that we should all be made to blog. Why? Because it’s become obvious to me that the connections I’ve made with other bloggers, complete strangers, has nothing to do with socio-economic factors, like ethnicity, income-level, achievements, religion, age, appearance, political-bent, physical well-being, or aspirations. Blogging is about shared interests, values, hopes, concerns, anxieties. All with whom I’ve shared more than a passing nod, express compassion for others. 

Blogging Heroes

Image via Wikipedia

From what I’ve witnessed these last 8 months or so, people take to blogging to have a voice in the world. We begin as individuals, venturing forth onto the internet, getting adjusted to the new environment, getting cozy with our surroundings, making adjustments as needed. Some soar quickly, taking flight, experimenting without fear, gathering new treasures which they quickly bring back to their “nests,” feathering them beautifully. Others, like me, pursue one goal, writing, picking up enhancements by accident, or through much effort and deliberation, even getting caught up in viruses and spams.

Blogging is committing to print, what buzzes around in our brains. For me blogging allows my thoughts to alight now and then, like moths that come to rest on a windowpane near a lit lamp. Moving from writing in isolation to having others gather around to read, is indeed a bonus. But it becomes more than that. The blogging community is a microcosm within a macrocosm.

Monkeys Blogging

Image via Wikipedia

All species are interdependent. We humans are not meant to live as islands unto ourselves. Relating to one another is essential to our entire well-being. Blogging connects us, without consideration for the trappings that can separate.

though not perfect, it is an option to seriously consider…hugmamma.

counting my blessings

On my recent flight home, I overheard a fellow passenger remark “It’s good to get away, but it’s always good to come home…sleep in my own bed.” Amen! Again I say, Amen! So this seems as good a time as any to reflect upon that for which I’m very thankful, beginning with…

  • The memory foam mattress that snuggles up against all the contours of my body, as though I was sleeping on a cloud. Now if only I could lay my brain beside me, so it too could get a good night’s rest. Maybe then I’d slumber peacefully, rather than thinking what next to write.
  • My husband’s affection pulling me into a huge bear hug. Just where I belong, until death do us part…not even then.
  • Crouching down beside Mocha, the doggie “love of my life,” to whisper “sweet nothings” in her ear. 
  • Lovingly stroking the length of Sitka, Juneau and Sunkist, as they stretch up to share their hearts with me.
  • Laying my weary head on my daughter’s shoulder, as she embraces me into the bosom of her “old soul.”
  • Letting my home, still decorated for Christmas, nourish my soul with childhood delights.
  • Reading emails from friends and family, sharing memories, newfound discoveries, and always love and concern.
  • Writing and blogging, journaling my thoughts and feelings, wary of the day when I might not, but thankful for the precious moments of the present.
  • Knowing that I’ve a network of online readers with whom to share my journey is mind-boggling, but a blessing I wholeheartedly welcome.
  • My health, such as it is, keeps me ever mindful that quality of life is fragile, and shouldn’t be compromised by poor choices.
  • The Maui of my childhood, where innocence and naivete abounded, ingrained forever in my moral fiber.
  • My Aloha spirit, my compassion for others, a legacy from my mom and those who came before.
  • The 2 angels who have gently guarded my well-being these last decades of my life, continuing to do so, my husband of 40 years and my daughter of 24.
  • And God above all, who gifted me with life, ensuring my best, knowing He is always with me…ALWAYS.

 

counted your blessings lately?…hugmamma.

ever have one of those years?

I know the year’s not done, but in the words of the reigning Queen Elizabeth, thus far mine’s been an “annus horribilis.” I’m not complaining, well maybe a tad. It’s more that I’m amazed at being blindsided by events over which I’ve had no control. I’m sure I speak for every one of us.

For me the chain of events began in late Fall when my daughter returned home for health reasons. As her mom I naturally felt the time with us was not just about physical healing. I knew it included emotional, spiritual and mental care as well. Her inner wellness was just as crucial as her external wellness. That for me meant making the journey with her. I felt her lows, and I reveled in her ascents back to normalcy. But it was a roller coaster ride for sure. And while I made certain that she had all kinds of support, I thought I could go it alone. Of course I reached out to my husband and friends, but moms tend to take on more than they can sustain. I didn’t know I had, until my daughter left.

Illness came calling almost as soon as our daughter boarded her flight home. I was laid up for weeks battling digestive, as well as respiratory ailments. At the time my husband was away on a business trip. Not being able to get out of the house for stretches at a time, my spirits were stretched thin, very thin. Not getting to exercise class regularly didn’t help.

Deciding to have physical therapy for chronic upper back, shoulder and neck pain once I felt well enough, got the endorphins moving. The sun seemed to be smiling down upon me once again as I got outdoors, breathing deeply of fresh air and renewed hope for better days ahead. Of course Christmas needed to go back into plastic, storage bins, but I hadn’t the strength yet for that monstrous chore. It would have to wait until I returned from our trip to see our daughter perform. But I wasn’t prepared for what awaited me 3,000 miles away.

Almost from the get-go, our family was engulfed in a discussion of differing opinions. Any mother of a young adult knows we must tread lightly with our opinions. Yes, I want her to know how I feel, but I don’t want to live her life. At 61, I don’t want to live mine, AND hers. Been there, done that, don’t want to do it again. Besides, she’s very capable of living her own life. But it’s very difficult not wanting to share my decades of experience, in the hopes that she won’t make my mistakes. Needless to say our family endured a few days of tip-toeing around one another. In the midst of it all, my husband left on another business trip. And he’s usually the neutral party. After a day or so, and much discussion, my daughter and I resumed our loving, BFF status.

Throughout the ordeal, the flu was brewing in my daughter’s gut. She danced sick, endured our brouhaha, and finally succumbed. The weekend after her performance I took her to the ER with a migraine headache that included dizziness, nausea, and mild vomiting. We sat in the lobby with many, other sick people waiting our turn to be seen, first by the insurance clerk and then the nurse, and then the doctor. Our visit began at 4:30 p.m. on Sunday, and didn’t end until 11 p.m. that night. The best part for my daughter was the last hour-and-a-half, when she slept like a baby because of the Benadryl she was getting intravenously. At that point, I was so light-headed, not having eaten since breakfast. Once I told the nurse about my hunger, she and the doctor wrapped things up pretty quickly. Once we got home, my daughter fell into bed, immediately dozing off again. I proceeded to raid the icebox. I know, my age is showing, but “icebox” somehow seems more apropos than “refrigerator.” Maybe because it makes me feel like a kid again, when MY mom did the worrying.

With my daughter sleeping in the next morning, I felt life was finally back on track, so I sat down to blog on my laptop at her dining table. Mindlessly writing, enjoying the moment, I surfed the internet for a picture to add to my post. As soon as I clicked on a photo of a picturesque beach on Maui, all Hell seemed to break loose. Those words blinking incessantly before me “virus, virus, virus’ will forever be emblazoned on my brain. Waking my daughter, together we wend our way through Hell, and back. Trying to buy a pop-up anti-virus security product, “system tool,” only got us more viruses. In fact, the laptop screen went entirely red with “VIRUS” glaring at us in huge, black letters. Using my daughter’s computer we sought online help. We found Tech Pros whose opening page warned of “system tool” being a scam. A half-hour’s drive away, we left my poor, inundated laptop in the hands of the experts..

At a cost of $199 plus tax, my good-as-new laptop was back home with me a couple of days later.  It’s actually better than before. Tech Pros installed a security system, in addition to zapping all those yucky viruses, “dead as door nails.” (Where’d that expression come from, I wonder?) Talk about bed-bugs, I really felt like the viruses had crawled into bed with me. As we used to say growing up on Maui as kids, those viruses gave me the “heegie-beegies!” The correct saying, according to my daughter, is “heebie-geebies.” Whichever it is, it’s exactly how I felt.

Oh, and then there was the matter of cancelling the credit cards we’d used to try to purchase “system tool,” whose sole purpose was probably to steal our information. My daughter’s Visa was replaced in a day or so at a rushed shipping cost of $16. My Master Card arrived the following day at no extra charge to me, except that the UPS driver left the envelope on the wrong doorstep. I learned of their error after I arrived home last night. While I was still at my daughter’s trying to track down my new credit card, I ended up having to cancel it, and have another new one sent to my home address. 

As if we’d not had enough I got hit with “the bug,” or so we thought. I started feeling the nausea my daughter had experienced. We thought it might be the flu. Would those viruses ever leave us be? As it turns out, we decided I was probably experiencing gastritis or the beginnings of an ulcer. Over the past few months, heart burn symptoms have returned time and again. Getting on a regimen of Prilosec and Tums as needed, as well as a diet of whole grains, steamed veggies and selected fruits seems to have calmed my digestive system down considerably.

But just when my health ordeal was unfolding, Mother Nature decided to ratchet things up a bit with a tornado watch. With heavy rains and winds whipping about, the sirens at my daughter’s apartment complex began blaring. Turning on the TV to the news channel, we learned of a full-blown tornado watch in our area. As the newscaster followed its movement, my daughter and I emptied her bathroom of anything that could kill us if we were to hunker down, wrapped in heavy quilts in the bathtub. My husband, back home from his business trip, called while we were preparing for the worst. Needless to say, he was worried. Needless to say, I was panicked, my digestive symptoms getting worse by the minute.

As I’m sure you’ve already surmised, no tornado touched down in our area, although sightings were reported in other parts. Due to return home to Washington, I hoped my digestive symptoms would abate long enough for me to make the trip which included a stop-over. Fingers crossed, I checked in online.

When I awoke yesterday I was good to go, having taken one of my daughter’s sleeping supplements which helped me rest through most of the night. I even blogged, putting out a post, before packing away my laptop. My husband called making certain I was, in fact, traveling. Later he called back warning that my flight was delayed 45 minutes, which would affect my connecting flight. The hour wait was now shortened to half-an-hour. I wasn’t deterred. I was ready to return home and be sick in my own house, rather than “riding it out” at my daughter’s.

When I got to the airport, I called my husband to say I’d made it, and asked if he could check for other flights in case I missed my connection. He called back with great news. The connecting flight was also delayed by 45 minutes. Hallelujah! God decided to give me a break. As it turned out, I had to work for it. My flight arrived in Terminal C. I had to high-tail it to Terminal D, which I did. Panting, my feet literally flew as I rushed past anyone and everyone making sure I wouldn’t miss my flight home. So determined to make it, I wound up standing in line at the wrong gate. God intervened again when another passenger informed me of my mistake. I hoofed it out of there, making it to the right line. I needn’t have worried. The flight didn’t leave the gate until well past the delayed departure time.

The only thing that hurt by the time I landed home in Washington, was my fanny. Could they make airplane seats any harder? But I’m home, with my husband, cats and dog. And you know what else? I’m even delighted to see that Christmas is still with us. My cat-sitter left a note saying, in part, “…I love all the xmas decorations! China Rose.” Don’t you just love her name? And she’s a sweetheart to boot.

The year’s not done as I’ve said. But I’m determined that it’ll get better. So I’m rejoining my friends in exercise class, continuing with my physical therapy appointments, healthier diet, and blogging. I’ll look into starting yoga, tackling other writing projects, and an adult ed class, perhaps in French.

we can all make lemonade…out of lemons…hugmamma.  🙂

lesson learned, valuable

Over dinner last night my daughter and I had a conversation that brought tears to my eyes. Yes, even soulful words can start the waterworks flowing. As a mom, I’ve always been hopeful that my 24-year-old can learn valuable lessons at a young age, without having to go through the process of trial and error as I have. I think that’s something all parents would like for their children. We would all like to spare our offspring the heartache of heartbreak, whatever the issues, be they a first love, a first job, a first boss, a first fight with a best friend. But as much as we might want, we can’t shoulder their burdens for the rest of their lives or ours. Their growth will be “stunted,” not to mention our own. Life is ongoing, never static, change happens whether we like it or not.

A confluence of things brought my daughter to the realization that she should “live life large in the moment,” my mantra. Taking a cue from last Sunday’s homily wherein the message was that as disciples we should “hate” all others and commit to God, she realized that her relationship with Him was more important than any other, even ours. I agreed. God has given her life, and gifts with which to do her best each day,  including compassion towards herself and others, and hope, always hope.  He makes no demands, except that she make use of her gifts as best she can. Succumbing to the demands of others, placing them above God’s and her own, can lead to confusion and repression. I know, for I have been guilty of playing the victim to others bullying. Once I regained control of my own life taking stock of my “gifts,” I moved forward, contented with who I am and the contributions I could make to others. Of course the struggle never ends, for there’s a fine balance in knowing when to keep to my own counsel and when to seek wisdom from others. But I now know to only look to those who love me and genuinely care for my well-being, not those who want to live my life for me because they deem to know what’s best. So I give my daughter credit for arriving at this knowledge early on, with her life still unfolding before her.

Two books, both made into movies, also influenced my daughter’s youthful wisdom, “A Walk to Remember” by Nicholas Sparks, and “Eat, Pray, Love” by Elizabeth Gilbert. Each in its own way left an impression that one can consciously choose to live one’s life with hope, joy and fulfillment. Sparks’ novel is of a man who has become a better person because of his teenage love, a girl dying of cancer who until her death, unselfishly helps others in need. Gilbert’s is a personal journey of self-realization and resultant happiness with who she is without the artificial trappings of her former life.

My daughter and I find ourselves on the “same page” in life, she at 24, me at 61, loving ourselves for who we are and grateful for the gifts given us by God, humbled to be  sharing them with others.

each one is special, in His eyes…hugmamma.

meditation, “down time”, hope

My earliest memories of sitting through Sunday Mass as a child was leaning my butt against the bench, forehead  resting on folded arms on the pew back in front. Before long, my mom pinched my backside prompting an immediate reaction. I’d jerk into an upright position, sleepy eyes wide open if only for a few moments before I relaxed against the bench once again. At the time, the ceremonial ritualism was probably the only thing holding my attention: vestments embellished in gold and silver threads, exotic incense scenting the still air, angelic voices singing words beyond my comprehension. When the magic of showmanship wore off, however, boredom for adult activities quickly took over. Not understanding the Latin spoken by the priest, not seeing what he was doing with his back toward the congregation, and awaking early (never my strongpoint) made church attendance another chore. Didn’t I already have enough of those?

Attending a Catholic girl’s school meant Mass was a regular event, whether weekly or daily, I can’t remember which it was. The only time I was overwhelmingly grateful for the habit was when President Kennedy was assassinated. Upon learning that our Catholic president was dead, the entire student body and school administration filed mournfully into church, seeking comfort within its hallowed, marble walls. It was incomprehensible that the man seen by Americans to have ever-lasting youth and charming, good looks was forever gone. I’m certain school girls and women around the globe identified with Jackie as she bid farewell to her partner in “Camelot.”

Of course marrying the man of my dreams in a Catholic church was a coup of my own. I’d captured his heart and left “wannabe me’s” out in the cold, “eating their hearts out.” Being suppressed by the teaching of nuns didn’t mean my natural instincts were dead, sublimated maybe, but not extinct. Knowing how to catch a mate is in the genes, having been passed down through the ages, beginning with Eve. Our wedding Mass was beautiful, like millions of others before and since. What made ours special was the ensemble of friends from my husband’s seminary days who accompanied the ceremony with song and music. Con-celebrating the Mass were 3 priests, the church’s pastor, a priest who’d known my husband since childhood and a priest who’d been an instructor at the seminary. Having grown up in awe of the religious, I felt privileged to have so many witness my humble marriage. And humble it was for a friend of my mother-in-law’s made my simple gown, another fashioned my bridal bouquet, I made my own headdress as well as my bridesmaid and flower girl’s dresses, our few wedding pictures were taken by my sister and a friend of my husband’s, and we paid $75 for the Chinese food prepared by my sister-in-law’s mother-in-law, a caterer. The reception was held on the rectory lanai, since my mother-in-law worked part-time for the priests. Less than 100 guests visited, and ate with us. There was no music, no band, no dancing. But still a very happy occasion, especially for my husband and I who were grateful to be starting a new life together.

Baptizing our only child in a 100-year-old country church was another dream come true. A miracle baby after a fruitless 16 years of marriage, she was a welcome addition to our relationship. Raising her as a member of the church family meant our daughter had many who cared about her welfare. They followed her growth, were swayed by her charms, bestowed her with tokens of their love, and baby-sat when asked. She learned at an early age that the church was a place of solace from the oft-times unfriendly, “rat race” in which we all find ourselves entrenched.

Church has been, and always will be, a welcoming environment where our family de-stresses and decompresses. Sitting quietly, emptying our minds of worldly cares, providing a blank slate for spiritual thoughts, opens us up to compassion for our fellow-men and women, and restores our positive energy through hope. Humbled before our Creator, we feel His benevolence and forgiveness. All He asks in return is that we continue in our attempts to live our best lives according to His tenets. We are asked to be Christ-like towards all species of His magnificent creation.

Every Sunday, I recommit to being the best I can be, and doing the best I can do. But what older age and experience have taught me is to “cut myself some slack.” Throughout the years I’ve done what everyone is prone to do, “beat myself up” over what I perceive as failings. Habitually seeking approval engenders self-deprecation, which engenders low self-esteem, which engenders dissatisfaction with one’s life, which can harm loving relationships. I came to realize that the latter were what mattered most in life. So preserving them became my life’s purpose. Shedding negativity in my surroundings, including persons who cared little for my well-being, was a necessity. Therapists may call it self-survival; I call it loving myself.

It seems from an early age we learn not to love ourselves. Why is that, I wonder? Against what image of perfection are we measured?  Is it something our parents or others instill in us, consciously or unconsciously? Or is it our own perceptions of what others want us to become, or not become? Whatever the answers, we seem to steamroll through life accumulating so much negativity, toward ourselves and others. There are positive moments for sure, but they can be overwhelmed by the “luggage” we drag around with us, so that peeling through the layers of bad stuff can wear us down, physically, mentally and spiritually. At some point we MUST erect a barrier against more negativity, begin discarding the “baggage”, and replace it with mountains and mountains of positive experiences. These eventually become the thoughts and memories with which we occupy our lives. When negativity seeps back in, we must fight back, never again letting it gain a foothold.

All easier said than done, but so necessary for our own happiness and well-being, as well as the happiness and well-being of those we love. Of great consequence to them is that we fight to love ourselves. Value yourself, and you value them. Isn’t that all God asks of us?

compassion and hugs, for ourselves…and others…hugmamma.

good night’s rest

A memory foam mattress is my favorite companion for a good night’s rest. Having invested in one for our daughter several years ago, since her  job as a dancer takes its toll, I convinced my husband that we should get a king-size one for our bed. We both agree with our daughter, that it was the best investment we could have made for our general well-being.

The memory foam mattress lies on top of the mattress that came with our bed and box spring. Rather than having gaps between the mattress springs and the curves in my body, especially my arthritic lower back, the memory foam curves with my body. As extra support for my back, I use a pillow under my knees.

To solve the issue of the uncomfortable gap between my neck and my pillow, I also have a memory foam pillow. Laying my head on it alone seems to afford the same curvature comfort for my neck, as the mattress does for my body. Needless to say the rest of my family revels in the same comfort, having their own memory foam pillows.

I share this information hoping that it might help others who have chronic insomnia due to aches and pains. I may have other problems like blogging into the wee hours, but my body is extremely grateful for my memory foam mattress when I finally fall into bed.

wishing you a good night’s rest too…hugmamma. (can I crawl back into bed now?)

hugmamma,m.d.

Here’s a bit of medical trivia. Just to set the record straight, I’ve returned to self-diagnosing my condition of a few days ago. Given my very close proximity to the patient, whose symptoms I’ve watched with extreme interest, it seems, in my “expert” opinion that I’ve been suffering from symptoms of “dry mouth.” Referring to my copy of  “The Merck Manual of Patient Symptoms”, it seems likely that my dry eyes, dry skin, rash on my eyelid and neck, and decrease in saliva may be owing to “dry mouth.” In my case it is probably due in large part to Claritin, an antihistamine I’ve been taking for a couple of months to combat allergies. Under GERIATRIC ESSENTIALS, the book claims that “…dry mouth becomes more common among the elderly,…probably due to the…many drugs typically used by the elderly rather than aging itself.” And I am getting elderly.

A walk-in-clinic physician at Philadelphia’s airport had prescribed Claritin. I’d been suffering allergy symptoms for some time, without realizing it. I know I’m affected by seasonal changes, but they seem to occur without my taking notice. Only after I’m forced to see a doctor for relief, am I aware that allergy season is in “full swing.” Not wanting to ruin my trip to Venice, I did as the doctor prescribed. Claritin was added to my daily intake of vitamin supplements. Who could know that it would cause an altogether different ailment, like “dry mouth.”

In the recent visit to my own GP, the symptoms hadn’t yet fully developed. So my doctor felt I was still suffering allergy symptoms and prescribed Benadryl when needed, in addition to continuing the Claritin. So after doing what I was told by 2 physicians, and still not  finding relief from the problem, I’ve decided to follow my own advice for now. I discontinued taking both antihistamines. We’ll see. As of now, my diagnosis and prescription seem to be working. Oh, and I should probably be getting more sleep, according to Merck. Well, that may be a difficult pill to swallow with my recent appetite for blogging. It’s now 2 a.m. 

I don’t take medical conditions lightly, although I address them with “tongue-in-cheek” humor. But I am a proponent of being an active participant in my own well-being. I heed expert advice, but I question it and continually assess my symptoms to make certain that my health is improving. Doctors offer their best-educated opinions in the moment, but they are not experiencing it first-hand. I know what I’m feeling all the time. I wish my medical team lived with me 24/7, but they don’t, so I’m the next best thing.

I can see the next patient now…hugmamma